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Stephon B. Bagne

Member, Clark Hill PLC

Phone: (313) 965-8897

Fax: (313) 309-6897

Email: sbagne@clarkhill.com

Website: Clark Hill Property Owner Condemnation Services

 

Stephon B. Bagne’s expertise in representing property owners in condemnation cases is widely recognized. Stephon has represented all types of property owners in a variety of situations including vacant and improved property, partial and total takings, easement and fee acquisitions, involving commercial and residential properties. He has won jury trials in courts throughout the State of Michigan and successfully defended those verdicts before the Michigan Court of Appeals. Stephon has prevailed in challenges of the necessity of takings and negotiated less onerous acquisitions in partial taking matters. He regularly speaks and writes about eminent domain and other real estate law issues for a variety of professional organizations. For a more complete bio, please click here.

 

 

 

 

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Thursday
Jun222017

MORE ET ROVER BUNGLING...OR A CALCULATED DECISION TO PLACE SPEED OVER SAFETY?

ET Rover’s pipeline construction activities in Ohio for the same pipeline that is being built in Lenawee and Washtenaw Counties in Michigan result in multiple environmental and other violations, leaving some to believe that paying fines when caught is cheaper than delaying receipt of $10,000,000 per week in income.

I handled multiple ET Rover pipeline acquisitions that I was able to settle with increased just compensation for easements that were restricted in scope compared to what Rover originally requested.  I also handled one matter in the federal condemnation filing by Rover.  I posted about Rover spilling drilling fluid in wetlands in Ohio as well.

Now, Bloomberg has published an article discussing Rover’s construction problems in greater detail.  According to Bloomberg, in addition to the major drilling fluid spills, Rover has demolished a historic home despite a FERC recommendation against it, dumped water in farm fields, interrupting planting; and been cited by the Ohio EPA “at least 16 times for improperly disposing of sediment-laden water in streams.”  Rover lost 119,000 barrels of drilling fluid, enough to fill 145 rail cars, in a hole that could only accommodate 7,000 barrels, according to the emails. On April 13, they found about 40 percent of it. It had settled on 500,000 acres of pristine wetland.

Rover is in line to “lose more than $10 million a week if it misses [a] deadline.”  Perhaps Rover reasons that the financial consequences of delaying generating income are less than paying to deal with the problems that they create (assuming that Rover is even held accountable –  it has “rebuffed efforts to settle violations and refused to pay $700,000 in civil penalties the [Ohio EPA] had levied”).

What does this mean for property owners? 

The more the public becomes aware of pipeline problems, the more potential buyers are going to avoid encumbered properties, thereby reducing their values.

The more rights that an easement conveys to a pipeline company, the greater the likelihood of future problems arising.  For example, many pipeline companies seek easements that allow them to build an unlimited number of pipelines.  If problems can arise during construction that result in destroying property for decades (as the Ohio EPA believes will happen to wetlands impacted by Rover), future construction of new pipelines will increase the likelihood of those problems. 

If easements limit the ability to recover damages or fail to make the pipeline company itself liable for damages, then property owners will be left holding the bag.  Unless the easement is negotiated properly, a property owner could be in a position of fighting to establish whether the pipeline company or an unknown contractor is liable.  This was an issue that I had to negotiate with multiple pipeline companies.

All of these nightmares were exacerbated if easements that were recently requested by pipeline companies that I opposed had been signed by property owners who did not focus on the “fine print” and instead focused exclusively on the money.

These situations demonstrate exactly why it is necessary to retain a qualified eminent domain specialist to maximize your just compensation while understanding the technicalities of the easement contracts.

If you have been confronted by any pipeline issues, please feel free to contact me.

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